When President Donald Trump invoked the term “American carnage” in his inaugural address, he wasn’t referring to gun violence, but the label undeniably fits: Record numbers of Americans are killing themselves or each other with firearms.
During the first year of Trump’s presidency, guns were used to kill 39,773 Americans, the greatest number of such deaths since the government began tracking them in 1979, according to a recent report from federal health officials. Suicides made up more than half the total.
A United States awash in firearms, approximately one for every resident, continues to lead the world in gun-related homicides at a rate four to 16 times higher than any other advanced nation.
Two of the five worst mass shootings in recent U.S. history occurred in 2017, including in Las Vegas where a gunman barricaded in a high-rise hotel slaughtered 58 people at a music concert below. Mass killings kept happening last year: at a high school in Parkland, Florida; another school in Santa Fe, Texas; a synagogue in Pittsburgh; and a bar in Thousand Oaks, California. Then, of course, there was the daily toll of less-publicized shootings and self-inflicted fatalities.
SEN. JOHN KENNEDY: Don’t trample on the Second Amendment
Even with Democrats taking power in the House on Thursday, relying on Congress to do anything about this growing national health crisis seems a distant dream, particularly given the power of the national gun lobby and continued Republican control of the Senate and White House.
The good news is that after the Parkland shooting, more than half the states enacted new restrictions on firearms. Absent new federal gun-control legislation, here are three ideas to staunch the killing:
►More states could follow Massachusetts’ lead and require an identification card to purchase rifles or shotguns, and a license to buy handguns. The restrictions go further than federal background checks. Applicants pay a $100 fee and are photographed, fingerprinted and interviewed, and they take a gun safety course. Licensing extends to private sales, negating the so-called gun-show loophole. Finally, police can deny a handgun license to an applicant deemed a public threat.
It’s surely no coincidence that Massachusetts boasts the lowest gun-death rate in the nation at 3.4 per 100,000.
►Financial institutions could alert authorities to highly unusual credit card activity related to purchasing guns and ammunition. A New York Times analysis of 13 mass shootings during the past decade revealed that in at least eight cases, killers racked up thousands of dollars on credit cards buying firearms and ammo, often where they couldn’t otherwise have afforded the arsenal.
►Slightly more than half of suicides in America are committed with a firearm. More states could adopt “red flag” laws that allow families, often in voluntary cooperation with the relative who is suicidal, to obtain a temporary court order for seizing that person’s firearm for a limited period of time until the crisis passes. The order would also prevent that person from purchasing a gun during the same period. Thirteen states have such laws.
Despite the disconnect between the majority of Americans who want sensible gun control and a Congress that does nothing about it, headway is possible through the states and by pressuring commercial businesses such as banks. American carnage doesn’t have to be a tragedy without end.
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